Sales: What problems don’t you solve?

I previously talked about the need to see things from the buyer’s perspective, and in the best-possible sales scenario, to actually become the assistant buyer.

In order to help the buyer as much as possible, you have to work to understand the problems that they have and know the problems you solve. And be really clear on this, and very specific.

What’s just as important as knowing what problems you solve, is knowing what problems you don’t solve.  In the sales process, some salespeople— intending to be helpful — can end up trying to solve problems that are not what they are there for. While this may seem to be well-meaning, it’s confusing to the buyer. It dilutes the strength of what you do and what you specialize in, and can make you look like an opportunist, not committed to a single vision, or interested in helping the customer to the best of your ability.

This side-stepping in order to take advantage of a different problem can also be symptomatic of a few things:

(1) you’re worried that your solution or whatever you are proposing as a sale isn’t enough, or that you personally feel a need to prove yourself worthy;

(2) that you’re easily distracted. Some people call it the Squirrel Syndrome – as in, “Ooooh look, there’s a squirrel,” also known as the Shiny Penny Syndrome. If you do have a tendency to be distracted — and if you’re an entrepreneur — you wouldn’t be the first. This ability to spot an opportunity, or to want to solve a problem or to be challenged and resolve a situation is a common trait of entrepreneurs.

But, it’s still a distraction. For everyone involved and certainly from the sales process. So, stick to the problem you know you can sell and the best way that you can serve the prospect.

So while it’s important to be crystal clear on what problems you solve, it’s also very important that you have boundaries and that you don’t get distracted, confuse the buyer, and try to solve problems that are simply not in your wheelhouse.

Want to increase the rate of sales at your startup or business? Then sign up to join Hazel Butters for a free mini-training: “How to Make Your Startup a Sales Machine.”


Winning customers vs closing sales

Sales: Are you just selling or creating customers?Great sales is about doing the right thing for everyone involved: for your business, yourself, your team, and the customer.  If you’re selling something that isn’t totally serving the end user, then you’re not creating a customer base; you’re just closing sales.

Some people may think: “So what if I’m only closing sales? That’s what I need to do.” But this mindset doesn’t come from a place of service. Using this theory, then, sales is about manipulation. It means that you aren’t acting in the best interest of your customers. You may get a sale, but you don’t have a customer — a contact that will appreciate and recommend you, or become a reference or someone who trusts you.

Sales is something you do for someone, and not something you do to them.

Zig Ziglar talked about sales being the need to become the assistant buyer — thinking from the prospect’s perspective.

If you’re entrepreneur who wants to increase sales and drive business results for your startup, then join us for our free online training:  “How to Make Your Startup a Sales Machine.” Click here to find out when the next training is and to secure your place


Chicken and the egg: Raising cash for your startup

You have a great idea and you’re going to bring a new product or service to maChicken and egg: Raising funds for your startuprket. It’s an exciting time as you imagine the changes your idea could bring. You’re embarking on changing a corner of the world in some way and impacting people’s lives — how they work, travel, communicate, think, feel or act.

Now the tricky bit — cash. Am I right? However great your idea is, or lean your startup is, you need money. You just can’t get avoid the need for funding. Welcome to the startup’s chicken-and-egg dilemma: your product is awesome* (*let’s assume this is true) and will generate cash, but you can’t develop, market and deliver your product until you have — you guessed it — cash.

There are certainly numerous ways to fund your dream — here are some possibilities to generate cash or support for your startup:

  • Bootstrapping (which typically involves giving up anything in your life that costs money: food, rent, fun)
  • Friends and family (also known as unaccredited investors)
  • Equity investment: Accredited investors such as business angels or venture capitalists – this includes convertible debt options
  • Debt investments or loans: Bank loans, private loans, microloans, credit cards
  • Government sources: Economic development initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce programs
  • Support organizations: Business incubators, business accelerators
  • Crowdfunding: These could be rewards-, equity-, donation- or lending-based.

Of course there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options. For some of these funding sources, the upside includes mentorship, access to resources, introductions, networking and collaboration. Potential downsides include loss of equity and control, accrued debt and interest fees.

One area that many startups seem to avoid in the early-stage build phase is sales. Cold, hard sales — where you tell people about the benefits of your product and ask them for cash — would not only help fund your growth but would also create a customer base of fans that could support you in ways that go beyond the financial.

Even if you are working from an incubator or have access to initial funds, you need to learn — and feel comfortable enough — to sell your product.

If you’re dragging your sales heels, then why not join one of our free two-hour workshops – The Build Phase – Increasing Sales (Fast) as a Tech Startup – which are being hosted in Boston, Cambridge, Austin, San Francisco and New York. Check out our workshops page for all upcoming workshops and to register.

Resolved to sell more this year? Then sell more!

Last year we were working on a project for a startup where the company needed to increase revenue (as is the general goal of business), but the team didn’t want to sell.

I’d like to say that this situation is a rarity – talented individuals with a great product and a reluctance to sell. And by selling I don’t mean writing blogs, posting to social media, or adding content to LinkedIn. I mean selling – speaking directly to individuals and companies that you can help, telling them how you could be of value and asking them if they want to work with you.

I find it heartbreaking that many startups (and let’s be totally honest, this isn’t strictly an issue inherent to startups) are in this situation. They have poured their heart, soul, sweat, possibly tears, certainly finances and time into developing a new product or service. They’ve done this because they want to have an impact, to make a difference in the world and because they believe in their product, in their vision.

Then … they don’t want to sell.

Instead, they spend time on social media, developing content, adding new channels, fine-tuning landing pages. Don’t get me wrong, marketing is important. But when you’re a startup and you need sales, you need to go and sell.

Why do people avoid sales? I struggle to answer this question sometimes – I’ve seen startups fail because the founder doesn’t want to pick up a phone or do anything that they would be construed as being sales-related. I can only conclude that it’s for any of these possible reasons:

–        A low (and to be honest, incorrect) perception of the sales process – thinking it’s something that is slimy, unwanted or ‘below’ your role as a founding team member

– Lack of belief in your product or service

– Lack of belief in yourself

– A deep-rooted fear of rejection. I think this is the reason in many cases – it can be hard to share your product or service, and then to have people say ‘no’

– Distractions within the business. I’ve witnessed this first hand, where a small founding team moves on to develop a new product or capability without really ensuring an already-developed product is up-and-selling

–  A misunderstanding of the sales process – how to position, communicate and connect with prospects and how to ask for a sale

– A poor product or service (in which case, sales is unlikely to help you in the long term)

In short, if you want to sell more, go and sell. Not sure where to start? – Then sign up for our comprehensive six-month sales coaching and accountability program: Sales Mastery for Startups.


Technology vendors: Be honest (realistic) about what you do…

In technology, with all its acronyms, blurring of lines and the need for influencers, commentators, buyers and vendors themselves to define new markets, there can easily be overlaps from one technology to another. Yet sometimes vendors overstep those lines and claim spuriously to do what their competitor does.

I’ve seen this a number of times in an enterprise sales situation – a vendor is defensive of a potentially competitive vendor coming into a project so they ‘overstate’ what their own technology can do. It’s not always blatant – in my experience they typically and truly intend – whether through through customization or development – to deliver what they have promised. But often claims are deliberately left hanging out there, to their advantage, and longer-term potential detriment.

In consumer technology there is far more of a ‘does what it says on the tin’ attitude, largely because of the need for simplicity driven by the target market, price-point and competition. Buying something for a few hundred dollars to perform a specific task is much simpler than trying to implement and integrate complex enterprise technology. The inherent complexity of enterprise technologies often makes it difficult for vendors to describe succinctly what they do. But some tech vendors certainly don’t help themselves, either. So if you’re a technology vendor and you’re currently reworking your messaging, please be deliberate, considered and honest.

It’s also important to consider how you categorize your product or service – what do you call it? What do your customers think they’ve bought? I’ve certainly written a number of enterprise case studies where a CIO or IT director describes the product/service they’ve implemented and they really aren’t using the same words as the vendor that sold the solution.

So – take a moment and think about why your company exists, what it does and what you should call it – as honestly and as realistically as possible.

1. Why does your company exist — what is its vision and purpose?
2. What problems do you solve?
3. Who do you solve these problems for?
4. Describe in the simplest terms possible what your technology does for them
5. Do you have customers that are already using this technology to solve such problems?
6. Ask a good proportion of your customers (don’t just ask one or two):
– What is the problem you had before you worked with us?
– Did we solve this problem?
– Can you describe how we solved it?
– How would you describe our technology, product or service — what is it? (and no prompting them with your own self-created market or terminology!)
7. Ask each of your employees, business partners, suppliers, and other people you trust to complete the following statements on paper:
(Your company name) makes/develops /sells _______________ to
_______________ which helps them _______________.
8. Which technology sectors/descriptions are frequently confused with your own technology but do NOT do the same things that you do?
9. And conversely, which technology areas do you overlap with?
10. Want to know more? Email me or send us an email to worksheets@prompt-pr.comand ask for our tech enterprise messaging template.